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Va. Man Convicted in Pipe Bomb Death

May 23, 2001 GMT

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ A man was convicted Wednesday of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend with a pipe bomb left on the sidewalk outside her apartment building.

Prosecutors said Coleman Leake Johnson Jr. killed 24-year-old Tammy Lynn Baker and her 8-month-old fetus to avoid paying child support.

A federal jury took a little more than six hours to find him guilty of murder. He could get the death penalty in the sentencing phase that begins Thursday.

The woman was killed in 1997 in the town of Louisa, about 30 miles from Charlottesville, after she lifted a trash can lid covering the bomb and touched off an explosion.

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Witnesses for the prosecution included two inmates who testified that Johnson admitted to the crime and told them he meant to kill only the fetus.

Johnson’s lawyers argued that there was no forensic evidence tying him to the bomb. They tried to tie Baker’s death to two unsolved bombings in Louisa five months later, suggesting that a serial bomber was responsible.

They also left open the possibility that the bomb was meant for Baker’s former housemate.